by Muhammad Shehzad
A new trend was noticeable in the recent sectarian attacks in the country. Earlier, the target was primarily the Asna Ashri Shias(followers of the 12 Imams). Now, however, the scope is widening. The Asna Ashris are a powerful community in Pakistan. Like their Deobandi rivals-whose proteges include the now defunct militant Sipah Sahaba Pakistan and the Lashkar e Jhangvi-the Asna Ashri have the Sipah Mohammad. In the late ‘90s and early 2000, the SM and the LeJ were engaged in blatant massacres of members of their rival community. If 10 Shias were killed in the morning in Lahore, there would be news that 10 Sunnis had been killed in Karachi that evening.
Of late, there are new victims of targeted sectarian violence: members of the Bohri and Hazara Shia communities. These communities have certain similarities. Both are generally soft-spoken and humble. Both are also largely educated, skilled, absolutely apolitical and completely peaceful. Their pacifism not withstanding, on September 18,2012, a bomb blast at Haideri Complex in Karachi killed 10 Bohri Shias and injured another 27. An infant was among the dead, whose parents had, with his birth, been blessed with their first child 10 years after their marriage. The ill-fated couple was looking forward to his birthday the next week. Two months later, on November 4, two Bohris were gunned down in Hyderabad. Three days later, four more Bohris were gunned down in Hyderabad.
However, it is the Hazara Shia community that is being subjected to even greater atrocities. The killing of Bohris began in September 20122, and to date, around 16 Bohris have been killed. The Hazara genocide started a decade ago. Since then, more than 1200 Hazaras have been killed. The LeJ has claimed responsibility for each attack. Last year was particularly horrific for their community. On April 9th, six Hazaras were killed and three were injured on Prince Road, Quetta. On April 14, eight more were mowed down on Brewery Road, Quetta.
On June 28, 15 of them were killed and 30 injured in a suicide attack on a bus carrying pilgrims from Iran. LeJ spokesman Abu Bakar said the attack was carried out by Zia ur Rehman Farooqi and was a revenge for attacks on a madrassa and tableeghi centre in Karachi. On December 30, 19 Hazaras were killed by a bomb attack on a bus convoy in Mastung, 25 km from Quetta and more than 20 were injured. After every attack, the government vowed the murderers would be apprehended and awarded exemplary punishment, but not a single criminal has yet been identified, let alone arrested.
More than 200 innocent people have been killed in Quetta, but to date it has not been established who should be held responsible, who runs Balochistan and whose duty it is to maintain law and order in the province, or the country.
The blame game continued as Rehman Malik quickly used the Hazara massacre to gain political mileage by maligning PPP’s main political opponent, the Pakistan Muslim League-N. He said that the LeJ’d headquarters are in Lahore, and the ruling N-league should take action against the sectarian outfit or he would raid its headquarters himself, along with the FC. Malik conveniently chose to ignore the fact that it was the PPP government that had issued 14 heavy weapons licenses to the LeJ founder, Malik Ishaq, and his son Malik Usman. Furthermore, two other founders of the LeJ-Ishaq and Akram Lahore, who were under trial-were acquitted during the PPP government. And it was the PPP government that permitted SSP chief Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi to make a fiery speech just a mil away from the ISI headquarters in Islamabad against the Shia community on October 5, 2012.
In that rally, in fact, section 144 was blatantly violated. The Islamabad police provided Ludhianvi security. Roads to Aabpara were blocked. The slogan “Kafir Kafir, Shia Kafir” was repeated many times as the Loudspeaker and Amplifier Act was openly transgressed.
The sectarian monster was fostered as part of state policy by the military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq in the early ‘80s under the patronage of Saudi Arabia which believed the promotion of Wahhabism could counter the influence of the Iranian revolution from spreading to other parts of the Arab world. But the Shia Sunni issue is part of a scholarly debate that has existed since the early days of Islam.
Shias and Sunnis co-existed peacefully for generations in the subcontinent and even helped each other during Moharram. The seeds of hatred were sown by Zia and a simmering sectarian war began. Haq Nawaz Jhangvi brought the issue out in the open through his fiery, hate-filled speeches. He would hold public rallies and read out provocative excerpts, allegedly from the books of Shia scholars, that insulted the companions and the wives of Prophet(PBUH). As a result, usually common peaceable Sunni Muslims would be provoked and people like Malik Ishaq could rise.
Ishaq is not a religious scholar. He ran away from a local seminary when he was in fifth grade. Jhangvi’s speeched impressed him and he joined the SSP along with two friends-Akram Lahori and Riaz Basra-in the mid ‘80s. They were indoctrinated with ideas such as the notion that Pakistan should be an all Sunni state and that, since Shias are infidels, Pakistan should be purged of them through genocide.
Source: Newsline Magazine, March 2013